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Climate change: Canada released national adaption strategy

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ST. PETER’S BAY, P.E.I. –

A national climate adaptation strategy released Thursday includes $1.6 billion in new spending to help communities faced with risks ranging from deadly heat waves and wildfires to floods and storms.

Bill Blair, the federal minister of emergency preparedness, announced the plan in Prince Edward Island, where post-tropical storm Fiona caused widespread damage to the power system, farms and the fishing industry when it swept through the region on Sept. 24.

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During a tour of Red Head Harbour just before the news conference, Blair heard from a harbour master about how the resulting storm surge demolished the wharf, and fishers described their uncertainty about when they could return to work.

“What we’re seeing in the last few years is an increase in frequency and severity of climate-related events, and it demands action from us, not just actions from one order of government but from all of us, from every Canadian,” Blair told the news conference.

The federal funding mostly tops up existing programs and won’t cover the costs of major projects, such as the proposal to raise dikes that safeguard the land link between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

However, the plan adds $489 million to the federal disaster adaptation fund over 10 years, helping with smaller projects that address issues such as the risk to coastlines from rising seas and collapsing infrastructure due to permafrost thaw.

There is also $284 million over five years to strengthen wildfire management through measures such as the creation of larger fire breaks between forests and communities.

In addition, Ottawa will spend $164 million over five years on flood mapping and work with provinces and territories to expand a system that identifies areas at high risk of flooding. There is also $60 million over five years to update standards for new infrastructure and $95 million over five years to provide climate tool kits for citizens and local governments.

The plan includes $30 million over five years to expand Health Canada programs helping people protect themselves from extreme heat, and $13 million over five years to expand other health programs tied to the effects of climate change.

In climate change policy, mitigation refers to actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat in the atmosphere and lead to global warming. Adaptation refers to actions adjusting to the reality of a warming planet.

Scientific assessments say that since 1948, annual average temperatures in Canada have increased by 1.7 C and 2.3 C in the North. Oceanographers have indicated that warmer waters added to the intensity of Fiona when it struck the Atlantic region, creating an estimated $660 million in insured damage.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities have estimated that the three levels of government will need to spend about $5.3 billion annually to cope with climate adaptation.

However, experts say that figure could be lower if Canadians adapt to the climate we’re facing now, instead of continuing to live in a country built for the climate of the past. The adaptation plan released by Blair sets targets to start this shift, though achieving these milestones would depend on co-operation from the provinces, territories and Indigenous communities.

For example, the strategy says that within three years, the goal is to have 80 per cent of health authorities across the country put in place measures to protect citizens from extreme heat, and by 2040 have systems in place to eliminate those types of deaths. Blair noted that British Columbia saw about 619 deaths during the heat wave in the summer of 2021.

The plan also calls for a clear set of codes and standards for infrastructure projects — from highways to water drainage systems — to be in place by 2030. The adaptation plan also suggests that preserving natural systems can help Canada reduce the effects of global warming, and it sets a target of conserving one-quarter of the country’s lands and waters by 2025.

Louise Comeau, director of climate solutions at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said she’s pleased the plan sets ambitious goals — including that six in 10 Canadians become “aware of the disaster risks facing their household” two years from now.

However, she said more details need to be provided on how these goals will be achieved, and she said provinces and territories should be required to agree to meet pre-set objectives before they receive the federal money.

“The $1.6 billion won’t go very far so they better be efficient with the money,” she said.

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Available Nexus appointments Canada

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There’s good news for those looking to expedite their border crossing experience.

To mitigate the ongoing backlog issues at Canadian border crossings, border officials have reopened two Nexus and Free and Secure Trade (FAST) enrolment centres in Canada.

It’s the first time any Nexus and FAST offices have been open in Canada since the pandemic began, and federal officials say more offices will be opening in the future.

The Nexus program, which has over 1.7 million members, is designed to speed up the border clearance process for its members, while also freeing up more time for Canadian and U.S. border security agents to tend to unknown or potentially higher-risk travellers and goods.

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The benefit of Nexus is that it allows for those travelling between the two countries to save time, skipping long lineups and using the shorter, dedicated Nexus lanes when crossing the border, as well as designated kiosks and eGates at major airports, and quicker processing at marine crossings.

Reopening these two Canadian centres is the first phase of a larger plan to address the lengthy Nexus and FAST backlog, and will increase availability for applicants to book appointments to interview for Nexus pre-approval, the Canada Border Service Agency said in a statement Monday.

Those looking to get Nexus approval can now schedule interviews, by appointment only, at the Lansdowne, Ont. (Thousand Islands Bridge) and Fort Erie, Ont. (Peace Bridge) enrolment centres, through the trusted traveller programs portal.

Travellers looking to apply will still need to complete a new two-step process, and the Canadian offices don’t mean applicants won’t have to cross the border to finalize the process.

If conditionally approved for Nexus status, travellers can complete the first part of the interview at one of the two reopened Canadian enrolment centres, then complete the second interview portion just across the border at the corresponding U.S. enrolment centres on the other side. For Lansdowne, that’s Alexandria Bay, N.Y., and for Fort Erie, it’s Buffalo, N.Y.

To become conditionally approved, both the CBSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have to grant approval prior to scheduling the interview portion, and interviews need to be conducted on both sides of the border.

“Nexus and FAST are a win-win for Canada and the United States – and we’re working hard to find creative solutions to reduce wait times, address the backlog and help more travellers get Nexus cards,” said Marco Mendicino, minister of public safety, in a press release. “This new, two-step process is further proof of our commitment to it. We’ll keep finding solutions that leverage technology and streamline renewals.”

Applicants also have the option to complete a one-step process and schedule complete interviews at enrolment centres in the U.S., which may be a preferred option for those who don’t live near the two centres currently open in Canada.

And those who are already members of the Nexus program and are awaiting an interview can renew their membership ahead of its expiry date in order to retain their travel benefits for up to five years.

More centres are expected to open at select land border crossings in the future, as this initial phase carries on, CBSA says.

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China slams U.S. Inflation Reduction Act for ‘disrupting international trade, investment’

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The Chinese Ministry of Commerce on Thursday criticized the U.S. for disrupting international trade and investment by adopting the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), urging the U.S. to fulfill its obligations under WTO rules.

The criticism came after the Chinese delegation attending a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Council for Trade in Goods expressed serious concern over the ‘discriminatory and distorted subsidy provisions’ of the U.S. IRA, as well as its series of policies that disrupt the global semiconductor industry chain and supply chain.

The meeting of the WTO Council for Trade in Goods was held in Geneva between November 24 and 25.

Speaking at a press conference in Beijing, Ministry of Commerce Spokeswoman Shu Jueting said that China’s response is an exercise of its rights as a WTO member to challenge the trade measures of another member and their impact on such an occasion.

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“In its speech, the Chinese side expounded on the suspected violations of WTO rules by the relevant provisions of the U.S. law from a professional perspective, noted that the U.S. approach has seriously disrupted international trade and investment while undermining the stability of the global industrial and supply chains, and expressed grave concern over the U.S. application of double standards and acts of bullying regarding international trade rules,” Shu said.

“China urges the U.S. to strictly fulfill its obligations under WTO rules and earnestly safeguard the authority and effectiveness of the multilateral trading system,” she said.

Stressing that the world today is facing multiple challenges including setbacks in economic globalization and a sluggish economic recovery, Shu reiterated China’s commitment to opposing unilateralism and stabilizing global industrial and supply chains.

“China is ready to work with other members to follow through on the outcomes of the WTO 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), engage fully and deeply in the reform of the WTO, stand against unilateralism and protectionism, and support the WTO in better playing its role, so as to contribute to stability of the global industrial and supply chains and recovery of the global economy at an early date,” said the spokeswoman.

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Civil rights group says Vancouver has at least one secret Chinese police station

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A Spanish civil rights group says Vancouver has at least one secret police station operated by Chinese authorities.

The group Safeguard Defenders said in a report in September that there were Chinese police operations around the world, including three in Toronto, and the updated report names another 48 locations.

Safeguard Defenders, a not-for-profit human rights group, said two of the new locations are in Canada: one in Vancouver and the second unknown.

The group’s previous investigation looked into the expansion of “long-arm policing” and transnational repression imposed by the Chinese government.

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Its latest report, titled “Patrol and Persuade,” gathered more evidence on how these police station function and their “persuasions of return” strategies, the group said in its report.

“Patrol and Persuade also documents the silent complicity of a number of host countries, instilling a further sense of fear into targeted communities and severely undermining the international rules-based order,” Safeguard Defenders said in an online statement.

Its previous report alleged employees from the overseas police system use intimidation and threats to enforce the “involuntary” return of immigrants back to China for persecution.

The group claimed that between April 2021 and July 2022, Chinese police “persuaded” 230,000 claimed fugitives to return to China.

No one from the Chinese Embassy was immediately available for comment on the new information, but it has previously described the offices as volunteer-run service stations to process things like driver’s licences.

The report said the newly documented Vancouver-based police station is being operated by authorities from Wenzhou, a port and industrial city in China’s Zhejiang province.

It said most of the newly documented stations were set up starting in 2016, directly refuting the government of China’s previous statements that the operations were started in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“New information shows at least one illegal ‘persuasion to return’ operation run through the Wenzhou station in Paris, France; and at least 80 cases where the Nantong overseas police system assisted in the capture and/or persuasion to return operation,” the report said.

The group claimed their work prompted at least 12 countries, including Canada, to launch investigations into local police stations.

A series of recommendations have been listed by Safeguard Defenders for all governments to consider, such as educating local law enforcement on the methods used by the operators and imposing costs on entities and individuals involved in the repression efforts.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month he raised the issue of interference directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Indonesia.

Xi later berated him for informing the media about their conversation.

The RCMP said in early November that it is investigating the issue, and officials told MPs in early October that they were aware of the claims by the group.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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